Holiday Gas Prices: How to Save

Holiday Gas Prices

The holiday season has begun and many people will be traveling to see friends and family for Christmas. That being said, with the average American spending close to $830 celebrating Christmas every year, you’ll want to trim cost wherever you can.

Holiday gas prices can be ridiculous. Many oil companies and gas stations will bump their prices for gas up around the holidays because more people are traveling (just like they do over the summer). This year gas prices aren’t as high as they have been in recent years but they aren’t extremely low either.

Higher Holiday Gas Prices

Holiday Gas Prices

According to this chart from GasBuddy.com, holiday gas prices last year were just slightly below what they are now. At this time last year gas prices sat right around $2 a gallon nationwide. This year the national average gas price is between $2.14 and $2.25 per gallon.

While holiday gas prices are a bit higher this year, they are much lower than they were a year and a half ago. In June of 2015 gas price peaked at nearly $3 a gallon. Comparably, traveling this year may be more expensive than last but you can cut your holiday gas prices by using the GasBuddy app.

Discovering Holiday Gas Prices With GasBuddy

Approximately 100 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this Christmas to visit friends or family. Holiday gas prices being a bit higher can hurt your Christmas budget this year. However, there is a tool that can help you save on gas this holiday.

As my boyfriend and I sat down and discussed some holiday-related expenses we thought about the possibility of visiting some of our family over Christmas. His mother lives in Minnesota, grandmother in Tennessee and other family members live in West Virginia. My out-of-town family lives in Florida and Pennsylvania. We both live in North Carolina. We didn’t want to spend money flying so Minnesota was out almost immediately (a 23 hour drive that would take at least two days). That is when I discovered GasBuddy.

GasBuddy is a website and smartphone app that you can use to discover the cheapest gas prices in your area. You can also use it to map out a trip and estimate how much money you’ll need for gas to drive there and back based on average gas prices in the places you’ll drive through.

The app and website will give you average price-per-gallon by state and city. Additionally, the app will also let you map out a trip and give you an estimated overall cost for your trip. The app will also alert you when you are getting close to a gas station with cheaper gas prices.

Safe Holiday Travels

Although saving money on gas when traveling for the holidays is important, it is not more important than your safety. If you want to travel by car to save money on flying be sure that the driving conditions are safe enough for travel. Additionally, check to be sure that fuel stations on your route will be open over the holidays to insure you don’t run out of gas and don’t forget to carry a blanket, flashlight and other emergency items in your car just in case.

Here’s to safe and cheap holiday travels!

Photo:  TORLEY 

What is the Dow Jones?

business-1730089_640The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) or the ‘Dow Jones’ for short, is arguably the most recognized and significant of the US-based stock indices.

Harboring thirty of the stock market’s most prominent publicly-owned entities, the index was formed by Dow Jones & Company co-founder Charles Dow, and today includes brands such as Coca Cola, Nike, IBM, and Intel; household names even to non-investors.

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7 Easy Ways to Earn Extra Cash Online to Ease the Squeeze

laptop-1840479_640What with the holidays booming up ahead in full storm and prices more expensive than ever, surviving today can be more than just difficult. Money doesn’t seem to go anywhere and families are finding it harder and harder to live a normal everyday life. We have come up with seven unique ideas which you can do from home, on the net to earn a little more spending cash every month. Have a look because you might just find the answer to your problems.

  1. Give Lessons Online

If you have a strong internet connection and a webcam and you are good at something then advertise lessons from home. You can tutor adults, kids or even groups depending on what your ‘skill’ is. You can even give English lessons online even if you don’t have any qualifications. Come up with something and get yourself out there. Even if you only have one a week, it is better than nothing.

  1. Distributor Work

This type of work from home involves a little more time and effort depending on what product you choose to distribute. Think about clothes, make-up or even avon products. You can buy them and re-sell them all from the comfort of your home and the best thing is, you only need to find the buyers.

  1. Sell Your Unwanted Stuff on Ebay

If you go wandering through your house then you can probably find at least ten things that you never use and that have been sitting in your cupboard since your Grandmother was born! Have a look, take some pictures, write a description and put them up for sale. This is a great way of bringing in some fast cash when you need it.

  1. Become A Freelancer

You might only get paid pennies to begin with but if you like to write, draw or even design then you can find freelancing work all over the net. Choose safe platforms like people per hour when you are guaranteed to get paid. There is transcribing jobs, translation jobs, writing jobs and even drawing jobs. Have a browse through because you might find something to suit your skills.

  1. Think About Online Trading

Online trading is the up and coming way to invest hard earned money. You can choose from buying and selling assets, currencies and various stocks. If you do enough research and learn about what you are going to be trading then you can turn small savings into big ones. There are various platforms available like CMC Markets. With this you need to be patient and understand that you could lose before you win.

  1. Clicking Work

Although this is one of the most boring and tedious ways to earn money online, it can be done and it will bring you in some extra cash each month. If you spent a couple of hours each day clicking ads then your efforts will bring in some cash. There a lot of sites online that pay you pennies to watch or click ads but most of them are legit. If you don’t want to put a lot of effort into earning extra money online then this is probably for you.

  1. Earn through Affiliates

If you have a lot of friends and family then you could earn simple money by just referring them to various sites and platforms. It might be a gaming platform, a shopping platform or even a work from home platform. You can find these sites by just typing in Google ‘earn through affiliates’. Each site will tell you how to sign up with them and earn by referring friends. If you join up with ten different sites and send links to one hundred different people, you could earn a nice bulk at the end of the month just from referrals. Have a go and see what you think.

Every little bits helps and with a lot of these ideas you have to go into it with an open mind. Do you research and take the time to plan carefully and understand exactly what you need to do. It is possible to make money online and there are people who earn a decent wage from doing so. What are you waiting for? Start today and make your life just that little bit easier…

Want to Secure Your Finances? Choose Home Ownership

new-home-1553256_640In a fluctuating economy, it is essential to secure your finances in whatever way is most effective. One of the key things that you can do to give yourself some financial stability no matter how the economy is doing is to choose home ownership over renting. That way, you would be unaffected by the rise and fall of real estate prices in your area.

Think Long Term

Many people of working age, especially the younger generation, tend to shy away from the issue of home ownership because they find that renting is easier on their bank balance. However, rental units are for the short-term and not as appealing as the option to choose a condo for sale or any other online marketplace. Focusing on your savings for a few years so that you can put down a deposit on your own home is definitely worth it in the long run.

This is especially the case given that you can agree to fix your mortgage payments so that they will be unaffected by fluctuations in the housing market. Once you have finished paying off your mortgage, you will be very pleased about your mature decisions on property ownership, even the ones that are out of the country, like Philippine real estate.

Aside from the fact that you will have a roof on your head until retirement, home ownership provides you with a significant source of equity (i.e. your house itself). All the money you put in the property would be for your benefit alone, and not for some landlord who sees you as a source of income.

Enjoy Greater Wealth Growth

Several studies into the wealth growth of homeowners as opposed to renters has suggested that the former enjoy greater wealth growth in the long term. And, if you plan on selling up after a few years, home ownership can also help you with your wealth management in another way. Some financial advisers are encouraging homeowners to think of their mortgages as a kind of forced savings account which helps them to store money up that they can then release (by selling their property) in the future. So, if you have trouble disciplining yourself to save, then – counterintuitive as it may seem at first – purchasing your own home could actually help you with your investments.

An Asset to Pass On

Bricks and mortar have always been high up on the list of assets. Once you own a property, you have something to pass on to your children or inheritors. Before that time comes, you will have something that provides you with substantial financial security. Should you ever need some extra money, you can simply sell up and downsize, and live out the rest of your days in financial comfort and peace.

My Kind of Christmas: Gifts for Dental Hygienists

wpid-img_20130830_100750.jpgI’ve been a little occupied lately (as of writing this post, still awaiting baby 2.0…) but as evident by the busyness in the stores, Christmas is in full force. I accidentally went to the store last Friday and couldn’t figure out why it was so busy, not remembering it was Black Friday. I was actually embarrassed to find myself a part of it. I was ignorant though and truly had forgotten (though should have figured it out when I realized something we had been looking for was on a super sale). I’m happy that this pregnancy has forced one thing, to be prepared for Christmas early this year. It’s nice to sit here in the beginning of December and know I’m totally done outside of wrapping, and a few food items that have to wait for obvious reasons.

Since my husband and I bought our house, we haven’t done a lot for each other in terms of Christmas and now that we have kids, it’s definitely more about them (proper thing) but we still do something small. Every year it’s a struggle because I’m an uber practical person and like my gifts the same way yet he doesn’t think buying me a new broom is a fun gift. Being a dental hygienist though opens up a whole plethora of gift ideas for him to get. If you’re fortunate enough to have one in your life and are looking for a gifts for dental hygienists, I can help!

Dental Themed Jewelry

Ok, I know it’s cheesy but there’s something kind of cute about little teeth earrings or a tooth fairy necklace. Dental themed jewelry is great gifts for dental hygienists. I traditionally don’t wear much beyond my wedding rings and simple earrings but every now and then I do break out my sterling silver ‘teeth earrings’ and have fun with it. If you’re looking for a gift for dental hygienists, and unsure what to get, it’s probably a safe bet. We all secretly kind of love anything dental related, jewelry included.

Massage

Working in dentistry is HARD. It doesn’t matter if it’s the dentist, the assistant or the dental hygienist, it is physically demanding work. Years of awkward positioning and bending to accommodate patients makes one sore and if you really want to wow the dental hygienists in your life, a massage would make an amazing gift for a dental hygienist.

Dental Themed Christmas Ornaments

Our family Christmas tree is an eclectic collection of ornaments from trips and memories made. I love it. My tree wouldn’t be complete without at least one dental themed ornament though. I have two and love them both. Check out local craft fairs or a site like Etsy.com if you’re looking for a perfect Christmas tree ornament as a gift for a dental hygienist, they’re guaranteed to love it.

Whether you have a dental hygienist in your life or are simply looking for a gift for dental hygienists in general (I know I’ve personally been given a few great gifts from patients over the years), these are a few good starting points. The only other idea I can suggest as a gift for dental hygienists would be chocolate, we always love and appreciate chocolate, we just brush really well afterwards!

Retire Sooner by Drinking Less Coffee

a-cup-of-coffee-399478_640by Edward Dressel

As a recent graduate or young professional, your retirement is probably one of the last things on your mind. As you start out in the post-college world you will have a new job, new responsibilities, perhaps student loans to pay off but there are compelling reasons to keep your eye on retirement, even as a young professional.

Savings that you make now for retirement have the power of time and compounding working in your favor, which can make little contributions now turn into large balances in retirement.  Would you be willing to give up some minor things now if it meant a secure retirement in the future?  Let’s look at a scenario that may be common for many of you.

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Don’t Go Into Debt With Your Holiday Spending

holiday spending
Christmas is just around the corner and many people are beginning to stress about their holiday spending. It is important, however, not to go into debt trying to make everyone happy this holiday season.

Many people go into debt trying to live up to Christmases past.

Many people go into debt purchasing gifts for Christmas, myself included. Usually the reason for this is because they are trying to live up to Christmases past. If you had a great year financially and it is followed by a tough financial year you may feel like you are lacking when it comes to gifts for Christmas. Do what you can, don’t stress about living up to last Christmas or the Christmas before.

Don’t overdo it… Buy what you can afford.

If you can’t pay cash for (or pay off in full) what you want to buy this Christmas, don’t buy it. There are plenty of programs, like Layaway at Walmart and Kmart, that can help you make payments on items if you really want them. This is a much better alternative than racking up credit card debt celebrating Christmas. Remember, the gifts you buy will bring joy to others, however, if you ruin your credit buying them you will resent having purchased it in the first place.

Don’t max out any credit cards you can’t pay off in full in January.

I am totally guilty of doing this. I was a 20-year-old who absolutely LOVED Christmas and had been approved for a Discover credit card, Amazon.com credit card and a PayPal credit card. All three of which were maxed out the first Christmas I had them. I bought my boyfriend at the time an Xbox, games and a number of other items. My grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers, mother, dad and dad’s wife all got great presents as well. However, I was not able to pay all of that off for almost a year (with interest) and it ended up dinging my credit score more than it helped it.

Christmas can help your credit score… If you do it right.

A few days ago I heard a friend of mine say that she takes out a loan for holiday spending every year. To me this was astounding (and it may seem odd to bring up in a posting about not accruing debt this Christmas)! How could someone take a loan out and repay it every single year just for Christmas. She says that taking the loan out insures that her family, including her three children, get what they want every year for Christmas.

The loan, as she explained to me, is relatively small $2,000 to $3,000 each year. It has actually helped her credit score tremendously and she is able to “do” Christmas to the fullest.

Whatever your plans for holiday spending are this year, make sure that you are fully aware of your finances and don’t overspend/rack up debt to have a nice Christmas. After all, the season is about enjoying friends and family, not gifts.

Photo: Jim Lukach

Financial Literacy Month: Games to Teach Kids How to Count Money

Source: Flikr

Financial literacy awareness is so important. Like most things, I believe the earlier you start, the better your chances of success are, especially in terms of education. My daughter may only be four but we’ve already been active in trying to educate her on financial matters. To make it fun though, there are things, like games to teach kids how to count money, which make it more fun and entertaining. She thinks we’re just playing but we’re actually teaching her useful, everyday financial tools.

November, being financial literacy month, is the perfect time for me to talk about various games we’ve used to teach kids how to count money, ones that we’ve had success with. I really do believe that playing these silly games is making a difference in my daughter’s life now and more importantly, in the future, when she’s independent and away from the financial protection of her parents. I want her to avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made and learn from our past.

Games to Teach Kids How to Count Money

There are three different things we do or games we play that help teach our kids how to count money. The first is simple, piggy banks. We currently have two piggy banks on the go. One to save and one to spend (adding a third ‘’to give’’ is also a good idea). My daughter understands that when they get full, she will either be able to spend or save (ie deposit into a bank account) its contents. We give her coins, usually just a few cents at once in various coinage and allow her to decide what goes where. Though she doesn’t quite understand the value of a quarter, she is old enough to understand when we tell her it is worth more than, say, a dime. Once we go through the explanation of denominations, she counts her different coins, dividing them between her piggy banks. How she divides the money really depends on her mood. Sometimes she’s all for saving and other times she has something in mind and decides to put almost all of it in spending. We let her decide.

Another useful game to teach kids how to count money is actually quite fun. For it we use monopoly money and allow her to ‘’buy’’ things. We don’t need to use monopoly money, real cash would work too, but we really are making a game out of it. We’ll give her 10 $1 bills and allow her to buy objects of different values. I will go to the dollar store and pick out a few decent toys/stickers/treats and apply values to them. They will be valued in such a way that she could never afford to buy everything at once teaching her not only to count the bills when ‘’paying’’ but that you can’t necessarily have it all. We’re at the point now though, at 4.5 years we can start to give her real cash and actually buy something from the store itself. I’ll give her $2.00-$3.00 and go into the store explaining what she can and can’t buy with her counting her coins.

One of the best games to teach kids how to count money, in my opinion, is to buy a toy cash register. One was given to us when my daughter was about two and she still loves playing with it. There are toy coins that go into various slots and she’s at the point now of counting the denominations on the coins (1,2 or 3) and adding them in her register. She will usually sell us things, and we have to buy them from her fake store. Most of the time it’s food that she sells, like the grocery store, but the main point is that she is counting the money to give to us and helping us decide if we have enough money to buy what the object is.

There are a ton of games to teach kids how to count money out there. Pinterest has a mecca of ideas but these are a few we keep going back to and seem to be working for us.

How did you come up with creative ways or games to teach kids how to count money? Either your own kids or others close to you?

The Average Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner: Ways to Save

Average cost of thanksgiving
This year is the first in quite some time that the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner dropped. Last year the average price of preparing a Thanksgiving meal sat just above $50 and now it sits at $49.87 (a 24 cent decrease from the 2015). It may not seem like much but celebrating the day may be a little less costly than usual.

These figures have been decided for a family of 10. The menu for the family of 10 includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee with milk. That is a pretty impressive menu and only costs about $5 to feed each person at the table for the holiday. If your guest list is a little smaller you could end up spending even less celebrating Thanksgiving this year.

The Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner

Why did the cost of Thanksgiving drop this year?

Well, according to Investopedia, farm prices of turkeys throughout the United States have dropped from recent years. This is probably the key reason that the overall price of the holiday meal has dropped. A 16-pound turkey only costs about $22.74 this year, which is spectacular compared to previous years. Plenty of retailers have also offered shoppers incentives for purchasing freak or frozen turkeys as well.

Other costs have declined as well. Milk prices dropped to a national average of $3.17 (the lowest they’ve been in six years). Pumpkin pie filling prices also fell to about $3.13 a can. Rolls, pie shells and cranberries have also all seen price drops this holiday season.

While the overall cost of holding a Thanksgiving dinner may be a little lighter on your wallet this year, there are still plenty of ways you can save. Keep these ideas in mind when you prep for your Thanksgiving meal tomorrow:

  • Don’t buy name-brand items – Butterball and name-brand turkeys are more expensive. Other items, like rolls, pies, etc. are also cheaper when they don’t have a name plastered on them.
  • Hold a potluck – Having others chip in will cut your overall cost greatly. It is also a fun way to get to try your friends’ and family’s cooking.
  • Be creative – You don’t have to have a “traditional” Thanksgiving feast. Serve something a bit cheaper. It’ll be just as good and even better for your wallet.
  • Scale your celebration down – Don’t invite everyone you know over for Thanksgiving. Keep your celebration small. It will help your budget.
  • Wait until after Thanksgiving – If you are looking to be a little less traditional you may want to think about holding a “Friendsgiving.” You can hold a dinner after Thanksgiving and get discounted items (turkeys will be marked down). This is a great way to still celebrate the holiday without the cost.

However and whenever you decide to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday you should remember that it is not all about how big or expensive your celebration is. What matters is showing your appreciation for your friends and family and spending time together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo: Neil

Christmas on a Budget: Easy Homemade Christmas Gifts

pepermint foot soakSince my daughter was born I’ve been doing what I can to keep Christmas costs down. This is even truer now that I’m on maternity leave again with baby #2 on his way. I’ve always felt that Christmas gift exchange should be more for children than adults, and now that we have a child I really wanted the focus to be on her and not among the adults in the family. Having said this, I love giving people gifts so I’m my own worst enemy. This is where easy homemade Christmas gifts come into play. I can keep costs down and still satisfy that gift-giving itch.

There are a ton of easy homemade Christmas gifts that you can make. The options really are limitless. I will say though, in the past I have made the mistake of trying to make an easy homemade Christmas gift only to have it cost way more than this actually buying something so do your research first!

This year my daughter and I have made a list of things we plan on making and a detailed list of what we need to get in terms of supplies. If you’re looking for a few easy homemade Christmas gift ideas, feel free to steal our plans!

Ornaments

I don’t want to give out specific details of what we plan on making just in case one of our recipients happens to read this, but we have three different ornaments in the works this year. I love handmade ornaments and they happen to be a very easy homemade Christmas gift that anyone can attempt because there are simply so many options. One of our ornaments will be 100% toddler made (we’ll see how it turns out) while the other two are legitimate, pretty ornaments that if they turn out, people will look forward to hanging on their tree. To make the three types of ornaments I estimate we’ll spend a total of less than $15 in supplies. Not bad for five different gifts!

Baked Goods

This can be an easy homemade Christmas gift only if done right. Baking can be extremely expensive and it’s easy to get carried away. That said, baking is still often cheaper than buying something but definitely do your homework on this one before committing to something. My sister and I bake every year, a whole day of whipping up our favorite creations. This will be the first year that we haven’t done it since we were teenagers. Having a marathon baking session while either 9 months pregnant or just recovering from having a baby isn’t my idea of a good time though. Every year we spend about $60 in ingredients ($30 each) and about another $10 in gift packaging. We divvy up our goods between about 12 people/families in total with a final cost of less than $6 each.

Spice Jar Creations

I haven’t decided if I’m doing this again this year or not, but have done it in the past. If you have access to a bulk spice store (or bulk section in grocery store) you can make a really great, easy homemade Christmas gift and you probably don’t even know it. Last week I was in my grocery store looking for a single spice and was shocked to see a small bottle of steak seasoning was almost $7. You can make a lifetime supply for $7 if you’re inclined to and you should because it is so easy. What I love about this easy homemade Christmas gift is that there are so many options and you get a good reaction out of people. They’re genuinely excited to try what you’ve come up with. You can dress the gift up in a few ways too with packaging choice and make a very inexpensive gift look quite fancy. If you haven’t done this before it really is one of my favorite easy homemade Christmas gift ideas because there are a ton of combinations out there. A simple Google search of homemade spice combinations or borrowing a library book will give you limitless options for what you want to create in your little spice jars so give it a try.

There are so many easy homemade Christmas gift ideas out there it’s worth a look into. Too often do we get carried away and spend a ton of money on store bought gifts but with a little effort (and I do mean very little effort in some cases) you can make a beautiful and easy homemade Christmas gift that will be appreciated much more than anything bought at a store.